Black Code / Code Noir

Louis Henderson &

This work received an special mention from the VIDEONALE.16 award jury.

In his video work Black Code / Code Noir, Louis Henderson documents current events, drawing out moments of historical equivalence. The resulting film assembles different material drawn from the internet in layers, creating a synchronicity in which meaningful contexts gradually emerge from what initially appear to be merely contingent combinations. Henderson underscores the disparate images of historical locations with contemporary and historical audio recordings of important figures such as Malcolm X and the actress Martha Jean-Claude from the film Simparele by Humberto Solar, but also with footwork rhythms and festive singing.

At the center of the work are the deaths of two African Americans, Kajieme Powell and Michael Brown, both of whom were killed by police officers in 2014. In a collage of film material, including Youtube clips, cell phone videos and animated reconstructions of the shootings, we see the two fatal shootings, as well as the violent unrest and peaceful protests that followed them.

By examining a piece of software developed to assist police officers in assessing potentially dangerous situations, Henderson investigates the role and power of such technologies. Do they make us safer, or are they a means for exercising control? Are they a significant innovation, or do they simply perpetuate and institutionalize existing racist tendencies?

In his film, Henderson allows us to see time as a cycle of intense moments which unfold within fixed temporal and spatial frameworks, showing social processes in relation to the concept of enlightenment, which is shaped by history, politics and technology. Perhaps most important is the work’s insight into our present position within the timeless phenomena of racism against dark-skinned people, which extends over centuries and continents in an interminable cycle of degradation and resistance. (Anne Greb)

* We can only show an excerpt of this work in the online archive. For the complete version, please contact the artist and Video Data Bank.

About the video

Title Black Code / Code Noir
Year 2015
Videonale VIDEONALE.16
Length 00:20:50
Format 16:9
Country France, United Kingdom,
Language English, French
Courtesy the artist and Video Data Bank and School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Specifications color, sound, single-channel video

About the artist

Louis Henderson
  • 1983 in Norwich, GBR.
    Studied at London College of Communication, GBR, Le Fresnoy, studio national des arts contemporains in Tourcoing, FRA, and European School of Visual Arts in Angouleme/Poitiers, FRA